The Energy Charter Conference held its 19th meeting in Athens on 28 November 2008, with a particular focus on the challenges facing international energy markets as with the global economic slowdown and on the growing importance of energy transit countries.
The Energy Charter Conference is the intergovernmental decision-making body for the Energy Charter Process. Among the main highlights of this meeting were the approval of a request by the Arab Republic of Egypt and by the Palestinian National Authority to become Observers to the Energy Charter Conference, and a high-level discussion on the growing importance of energy transit countries.
In his keynote address to the Conference entitled 'Bridges and Routes from Producers to Consumers', Minister of Development of Greece Christos Folias said,
"In the modern international economic environment, energy security is a prerequisite for the competitiveness of national economies, and is therefore a priority of utmost importance for governments."
Following Mr. Folias's speech, the discussion was taken on by Mr. Levon Shahverdyan, Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia, Mr. Anatoly Yanovskiy, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, Mr. Sergiy Pavlusha, Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine, Mr. Abdul Qadier Nur, Director of Multilateral Relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Eng. Abdul Alim Taha, CEO of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), Dr. Abdel Karim Abdeen, General Director of the Palestinian Energy Authority, Dr. Bratislav Ceperkovic, Counsellor at the Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, and Ms. Marjeta Jager, Director, European Commission.
The discussion raised such important issues as the vital role of energy in our everyday life and the resulting significance of energy security, the need for attracting and protecting investment in developing energy projects and infrastructure, especially with the eminent economic downturn risking to diminish long-term investments, and the great need for cooperation on a regional and global scale to ensure a secure energy future.
The Conference welcomed the report of the Chairman of the Trade and Transit Group on the status of the draft Protocol on Transit and has decided to continue multilateral consultations in order to reach consensus on the outstanding issues, with a view to enter into negotiations once the conditions for a successful finalisation are achieved.
Two years ago, the Conference has set up an Ad Hoc Group on Strategy in order to ensure that the Charter process evolves taking into account the new challenges and risks posed by international energy markets. The results of the work carried out by the Group throughout 2008 were presented to delegations by the Group's Chairman. The Conference welcomed the Chairman's report and has decided to extend the Group's mandate to 2009. The findings of the Ad Hoc Group on Strategy will contribute to the Energy Charter Review.
In 2009 the Charter will undergo a regular Review in accordance with the Energy Charter Treaty's Article 34(7). The Conference has discussed the procedure and subject of the Review and has adopted the Terms of Reference for the Review. Prof. Sergio Garribba of Italy was appointed Special Representative to coordinate and lead the Review. His report and conclusions will be presented to the Conference during its meeting at the end of 2009.
The Conference also adopted recommendations that arose from the in-depth investment review of Albania, conducted by its Investment Group. In the area of energy efficiency, the Conference approved conclusions following an in-depth energy efficiency review of the Slovak Republic and endorsed the recommendations of the Conference on 'International Cooperation on Energy Efficiency: Working together for a Low-carbon Economy' organised in Geneva jointly with the UNECE and the IEA in May 2008.
Mr. Howard Chase of BP Europe presented a Communication from the Energy Charter Industry Advisory Panel to delegates. He highlighted the key issues reviewed by the Panel in 2008, such as the driving forces behind the recent easing of energy prices, the systemic supply-side underinvestment in the energy sector and the nature of barriers to the required investment flows, and outlined the Panel's programme of work for the following year. The Conference welcomed the work carried out by the Industry Advisory Panel and has extended its mandate for another four years.
The Conference also welcomed the Energy Charter's Model Agreements for Cross-border Electricity Projects. These non-binding agreements were designed on the basis of an earlier set of model agreements drawn up by the Charter and its Legal Advisory Task Force in order to facilitate cross-border infrastructure projects in the oil and gas sector. The Electricity Model Agreements will be released on the Energy Charter website in spring 2009.
The Conference adopted the Secretariat's Programme of Work for 2009, which takes into account the outcomes of the member states' strategic discussions throughout the year on the challenges facing the global energy sector.
The Conference re-appointed H.E. Mr Takekazu Kawamura, Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, as its Chairman. Mr Anatoly Yanovskiy, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, and Prof Aymo Brunetti, Head of the Economic Policy Directorate at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of Switzerland, were re-appointed as Conference Vice-Chairmen.
On behalf of the Conference, Ambassador Kawamura warmly thanked the Government of Greece for its proposal to host the 19th meeting of the Charter Conference in Athens and for the very valuable support received in organising this meeting.